Obama's out there touting the GM Bailout and "HIS" saving he American Auto Industry...the TRUTH is that this deal was a bad deal...GM is not doing well...and it will cost taxpayers a ton of money....Obama once again is touting one of his failures....Romney was right the auto industry should have gone through normal bankruptcy and they would be better off today (not owned by the unions) and the taxpayers would NOT be paying the bill....
September 10, 2012 4:00 A.M. By The Editors
The Democrats’ GM Fiction
The Democrats have decided to run in 2012 as the bailout party. It is an odd choice — the 2008–09 bailouts were deeply unpopular among the general public, and even their backers were notably conflicted about the precedent being set and the ensuing moral hazard. But Democrats have nonetheless made one of the most abusive episodes in the entire bailout era their economic cornerstone: the government takeover of General Motors.
The GM bailout was always an odd duck: The Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) was created in order to preserve liquidity in the financial markets by heading off the collapse of key financial institutions that had made catastrophically bad bets on real-estate securities — nothing at all to do with cars, really. GM’s financial arm, today known as Ally Financial, was in trouble, but GM’s fundamental problem was that its products were not profitable enough to support its work-force expenses. A single dominant factor — the United Auto Workers union’s extortionate contracts with GM — prevented the carmaker from either reducing its work-force costs or making its products more efficiently. And its hidebound management didn’t help.
Admirers of the GM bailout should bear in mind that it was the Bush administration that first decided to intervene at the firm, offering a bridge loan on the condition that it draw up a deeply revised business plan. President Obama’s unique contribution was effectively to nationalize the company, seeing to it that the federal government violated normal bankruptcy processes and legal precedent to protect the defective element at the heart of GM’s troubles: the financial interests of the UAW. It did this by strong-arming GM’s bondholders into taking haircuts in order to sweeten the pot for the UAW. The Obama administration also creatively construed tax law to relieve GM of tens of billions of dollars in obligations — at the same time that Barack Obama & Co. were caterwauling about the supposed lack of patriotism of firms that used legal means rather than political favoritism to reduce their tax bills.
Mitt Romney’s proposal for a structured bankruptcy would have necessitated considerable federal involvement, too, but with a key difference: The UAW contracts would have been renegotiated, and GM’s executive suites would have been cleaned out, placing the company on a path toward innovation and self-sufficiency rather than permanent life support. Which is to say, Obama did for GM what he is doing by un-reforming welfare: creating a dependent constituency.
The Democrats cling to the ridiculous claim that the bailout of GM and its now-Italian competitor, Chrysler, saved 1.5 million U.S. jobs. This preposterous figure is based on the assumption that if GM and Chrysler had gone into normal bankruptcy proceedings, the entire enterprise of automobile manufacturing in the United States would have collapsed — not only at GM and Chrysler but at Ford and foreign transplants such as Toyota and Honda. Not only that, the Democrats’ argument goes, but practically every parts maker, supplier, warehousing agency, and services firm dedicated to the car industry would have collapsed, too. In fact, it is unlikely that even GM or Chrysler would have stopped production during bankruptcy: The assembly lines would have continued rolling, interest and debt payments would have been cut, and — here’s the problem — union contracts would have been renegotiated. Far from having saved 1.5 million jobs, it is not clear that the GM bailout saved any — only that it preserved the UAW’s unsustainable arrangement.
Bill Clinton bizarrely tried to claim that the bailout has been responsible for the addition of 250,000 jobs to the automobile industry since the nadir of the financial crisis. Auto manufacturers and dealerships have indeed added about 236,000 jobs since then, but almost none are at GM, which has added only about 4,500 workers, a number not even close to offsetting the 63,000 workers that its dealerships had to let go when the terms of the bailout unilaterally shut them down.
Ugly as the bank bailouts were, the federal government appears set to make its money back on most of them, with the exception of some smaller regional banks and CIT. Even AIG, one of the worst of the financial basket cases, is set to end up being a break-even proposition for U.S. taxpayers. But tens of billions of dollars will be lost on GM. The federal government put up more for a 60 percent interest in the firm than GM is worth today.
At their convention, Democrats swore that GM is “thriving,” but the market doesn’t think so: GM shares have lost half their value since January 2011. And while the passing of the Great Recession has meant growing sales for all automakers, GM is seriously lagging behind its competitors: Its sales are up 10 percent, a fraction of the increases at Kia, Toyota, Volkswagen, and Porsche. With its sales weak, its share price crashing, and its business model still a mess, some analysts already are predicting that GM will return to bankruptcy — but not until after the election.
The Obama administration talks up all of the “jobs” it saved at GM — but jobs doing what? Manufacturing automobiles that are not competitive without a massive government subsidy? Propping up an economically unviable enterprise just long enough to get Barack Obama reelected? As much as it will pain the hardworking men and women of GM to hear it, it is not worthwhile to save jobs at enterprises that cannot compete on their own merits. So long as the federal government is massively subsidizing the operation, a job at GM is a welfare program with a fairly robust work requirement. (And we all know how the Obama administration feels about work requirements.)
We have bankruptcy laws and bankruptcy courts for a reason. It may make sense to expedite the proceedings for very large firms such as GM in order to prevent disruptions in the supply chain that would, as Ford’s executives argued, harm other, healthier firms. But bankrupt is what GM was, and bankrupt is what GM is, a fact that will become blisteringly apparent should the government ever attempt to sell off the shares it owns in the company.
The GM bailout was a bad deal for GM’s creditors, for U.S. taxpayers, and, in the long run, for the U.S. automobile industry and our overall national competitiveness. No wonder the Democrats are campaigning on a fictionalized account of it.
More About the Troubles at GM -----
Insight: GM's Volt - The ugly math of low sales, high costs
By Bernie Woodall and Paul Lienert and Ben Klayman Mon Sep 10, 2012 12:24am EDT
(Reuters) - General Motors Co sold a record number of
Chevrolet Volt sedans in August — but that probably isn't a good thing for the automaker's bottom line.
Nearly two years after the introduction of the path-breaking plug-in hybrid, GM is still losing as much as $49,000 on each Volt it builds, according to estimates provided to Reuters by industry analysts and manufacturing experts.
Cheap Volt lease offers meant to drive more customers to Chevy showrooms this summer may have pushed that loss even higher. There are some Americans paying just $5,050 to drive around for two years in a vehicle that cost as much as $89,000 to produce.
And while the loss per vehicle will shrink as more are built and sold, GM is still years away from making money on the Volt, which will soon face new competitors from Ford, Honda and others.
GM's basic problem is that "the Volt is over-engineered and over-priced," said Dennis Virag, president of the Michigan-based Automotive Consulting Group.
And in a sign that there may be a wider market problem, Nissan, Honda and Mitsubishi have been struggling to sell their electric and hybrid vehicles, though Toyota's Prius range has been in increasing demand.
GM's quandary is how to increase sales volume so that it can spread its estimated $1.2-billion investment in the Volt over more vehicles while reducing manufacturing and component costs - which will be difficult to bring down until sales increase.
But the Volt's steep $39,995 base price and its complex technology — the car uses expensive lithium-polymer batteries, sophisticated electronics and an electric motor combined with a gasoline engine — have kept many prospective buyers away from Chevy showrooms.
Some are put off by the technical challenges of ownership, mainly related to charging the battery. Plug-in hybrids such as the Volt still take hours to fully charge the batteries - a process that can been speeded up a bit with the installation of a $2,000 commercial-grade charger in the garage.
The lack of interest in the car has prevented GM from coming close to its early, optimistic sales projections. Discounted leases as low as $199 a month helped propel Volt sales in August to 2,831, pushing year-to-date sales to 13,500, well below the 40,000 cars that GM originally had hoped to sell in 2012.
Out in the trenches, even the cheap leases haven't always been effective.
A Chevrolet dealership that is part of an auto dealer group in Toms River, New Jersey, has sold only one Volt in the last year, said its president Adam Kraushaar. The dealership sells 90 to 100 Chevrolets a month.
The weak sales are forcing GM to idle the Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant that makes the Chevrolet Volt for four weeks from September 17, according to plant suppliers and union sources. It is the second time GM has had to call a Volt production halt this year.
GM acknowledges the Volt continues to lose money, and suggests it might not reach break even until the next-generation model is launched in about three years.
"It's true, we're not making money yet" on the Volt, said Doug Parks, GM's vice president of global product programs and the former Volt development chief, in an interview. The car "eventually will make money. As the volume comes up and we get into the Gen 2 car, we're going to turn (the losses) around," Parks said.
"I don't see how General Motors will ever get its money back on that vehicle," countered Sandy Munro, president of Michigan-based Munro & Associates, which performs detailed tear-down analyses of vehicles and components for global manufacturers and the U.S. government.
It currently costs GM "at least" $75,000 to build the Volt, including development costs, Munro said. That's nearly twice the base price of the Volt before a $7,500 federal tax credit provided as part of President Barack Obama's green energy policy.
Other estimates range from $76,000 to $88,000, according to four industry consultants contacted by Reuters. The consultants' companies all have performed work for GM and are familiar with the Volt's development and production. They requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of their auto industry ties.
Parks declined to comment on specific costs related to the Volt.
The independent cost estimates obtained by Reuters factor in GM's initial investment in development of the Volt and its key components, as well as new tooling for battery, stamping, assembly and supplier plants — a price tag that totals "a little over" $1 billion, Parks said. Independent estimates put it at $1.2 billion, a figure that does not include sales, marketing and related corporate costs.
Spread out over the 21,500 Volts that GM has sold since the car's introduction in December 2010, the development and tooling costs average just under $56,000 per car. That figure will, of course, come down as more Volts are sold.
The actual cost to build the Volt is estimated to be an additional $20,000 to $32,000 per vehicle, according to Munro and the other industry consultants.
The production cost estimates are considerably higher than those for the Chevrolet Cruze, the Volt's conventional gasoline-engine sister car, which Munro estimates at $12,000 to $15,000 per vehicle.
Production costs typically include such items as parts, material, labor and the cost to run the factory, according to manufacturing expert Ron Harbour, who heads the North American Automotive Practice at Michigan-based consultant Oliver Wyman.
The Volt costs more to build for several reasons, mostly related to the car's richer content, complex technology and still-low sales and production volumes.
The basic model has a higher level of equipment and features than the Cruze, which is assembled in Lordstown, Ohio, and has a starting sales price of $17,925. The Volt also has a number of unique parts, including the battery pack, the electric motor and the power electronics.
Some of GM's suppliers also impose cost penalties on the automaker because the Volt's production volume remains well below projections.
Still, as the company wrestles with how to drive down costs and increase showroom traffic, Parks said the Volt is an important car for GM in other respects.
"It wasn't conceived as a way to make tons of money," he said. "It was a big dip in the technology pool for GM. We've learned a boatload of stuff that we're deploying on other models," Parks said. Those include the Cruze and such future cars as the 2014 Cadillac ELR hybrid.
The same risky strategy — gambling on relatively untested technology — drove massive investments by Toyota Motor Corp in the Prius hybrid and Nissan Motor Co in the Leaf electric car.
Toyota said it now makes a profit on the Prius, which was introduced in the United States in 2000 and is now in its third generation. Sales of the Prius hybrid, which comes in four different versions priced as low as $19,745, have almost doubled so far this year to 164,408.
Other such vehicles haven't done nearly as well. Nissan's pure-electric Leaf, which debuted at the same time as the Volt and retails for $36,050, has sold just 4,228 this year, while the Honda Insight, which has the lowest starting price of any hybrid in the U.S. at $19,290, has sales this year of only 4,801. The Mitsubishi i, an even smaller electric car priced from $29,975, is in even worse shape, with only 403 sales.
Toyota's unveiling of the original Prius caught U.S. automakers off guard. GM, then under the leadership of Rick Wagoner and Bob Lutz, decided it needed a "leapfrog" product to tackle Toyota and unveiled the Volt concept to considerable fanfare at the 2007 Detroit auto show.
The car entered production in the fall of 2010 as the first U.S. gasoline-electric hybrid that could be recharged by plugging the car into any electrical outlet. The Obama administration, which engineered a $50-billion taxpayer rescue of GM from bankruptcy in 2009 and has provided more than $5 billion in subsidies for green-car development, praised the Volt as an example of the country's commitment to building more fuel-efficient cars.
GM's investment in the Volt has so far been a fraction of the $5 billion that Nissan said it is spending to develop and tool global production of the Leaf and its associated technologies and the reported $10 billion or more that Toyota has plowed into the Prius and various derivatives over the past decade.
But there will inevitably be more development costs for future generations of GM plug-ins and it could still could be years before GM sells enough Volts to bring the cost down to break even.
The average per-car costs for development and tooling will drop as sales volume rises. But GM will need to sell 120,000 Volts before the per-vehicle cost reaches $10,000 — and that may not occur during the projected five-year life cycle of the first-generation Volt.
Parks said the company also is continuously reducing production costs on the current Volt and its successor. "There is a strong push on the cost of the Gen 2 to get the car to make money and to be more affordable . . . Virtually every component in the next-gen car is going to be cheaper," he said.
One obvious way to pull down costs is to push up volume — but GM is paying a hefty price to do so.
The automaker just ended a special Volt lease program that offered customers a low monthly payment of $279 a month for two years, with some high-volume dealers dropping the payment to $199 a month after receiving incentive money from GM, with down payments as low as $250. The company said about two-thirds of Volt customers in July and August leased their vehicles, compared with about 40 percent earlier this year.
Before GM resorted to discounting Volt leases, sales were averaging just over 1,500 cars a month. A huge part of that reason was consumer push back over the price, according to Virag of Automotive Consulting.
Volt's nearest competitor, the Prius, is priced at $24,795, with a newer version, the Prius Plug-In, starting at $32,795.
Parks said the sales pitch for the Volt was "difficult" because of the sticker price and the car's technical complexity. But the discounted leases have helped lure more non-GM buyers into Chevy showrooms. Their number-one trade-in: Toyota Prius.
Raymond Chevrolet, in suburban Chicago, sells an average 1,000 Chevys a month, including three to seven Volts. Dealership president Mark Scarpelli said that "some people who like the concept of an electric vehicle find it cost-prohibitive."